PDA joins forces with Scottish Trade Union Congress


The Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) has affiliated with the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC), adding the voices of 2,500 PDA members to the combined voice of Scotland’s workers. The PDA Union’s affiliation will commence immediately and will amplify the voice at work of employed and locum pharmacists in Scotland.


The STUC represents over 540,000 trade unionists, the members of 40 affiliated trade unions and 20 Trades Union Councils. They speak for trade union members in and out of work, in the community and in the workplace, in all occupational sectors and across Scotland. STUC representative structures ensure that they can speak with authority for the interests of women workers, black workers, young workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers and other groups of trade unionists that otherwise suffer discrimination in the workplace and in society.


The PDA Union is already affiliated with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), the General Federations of Trade Unions (GFTU) and EPhEU, the European federation of pharmacist trade unions. Trade unions affiliate with federations to work collectively with those representing other groups of workers, while retaining their independence, just as individuals join their professions’ trade union to achieve more through collective action than they can achieve on their own.


STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer said:


“We are delighted that the PDA Union has affiliated with the STUC.  Pharmacists have been on the front line during the pandemic, delivering vital services in this challenging period.  Their joining with us is further confirmation that there are no no-go areas for trade unions in representing every job and profession in Scotland.  We really look forward to working with the PDA in the period ahead, to support their members’ priorities.”


PDA Director Paul Day said:


“Our 2,500 members in Scotland will undoubtedly benefit from our union being part of the STUC. We are a relatively new union and over the last 12 years have organised pharmacist professionals in both the public and private sector to have a stronger voice at work, to further the equality agenda, improve safety for patients and employees, start to restore rates of pay which have been subject to real terms cuts over recent years and rebalance the influence private-sector employers have over pharmacy policy. With many pharmacists practising in local pharmacies, in the heart of Scotland’s communities, we are proud that more and more of these key workers are also trade union members.



LloydsPharmacy and PDA Union reach recognition agreement for pharmacists


Pharmacists at LloydsPharmacy will in future be able to negotiate over certain terms and conditions and be consulted on matters which impact on their employment, through the PDA Union.


The PDA Union and LloydsPharmacy have reached a voluntary trade union recognition agreement. This means that pharmacists at LloydsPharmacy will in future be able to negotiate over certain terms and conditions and be consulted on matters which impact on their employment, through the PDA Union.


The recognition agreement comes after constructive talks between the two parties about how best to give the company’s c.2,600 pharmacists, a collective voice at work.


Johnny Dowd, Head of HR Operations at McKesson UK, parent company to LloydsPharmacy said:


“Our pharmacists are highly valued individuals at the very heart of what we do, providing excellent care to their communities. Our aim is to provide them with a rewarding career in which they feel valued and able to achieve their professional and personal goals. We believe that the PDA can help us achieve that ambition and we are looking forward to working closely with them going forward.”


The recognition agreement means some pharmacists at the company will become trained PDA Union representatives and will represent and support colleagues in employment matters and be consulted and informed about significant challenges and opportunities faced by the business.


Paul Day, Director at PDA Union said:


“LloydsPharmacy is a major employer of UK pharmacists and we are delighted that we have reached this outcome through a series of mutually respectful discussions focused on how we can jointly improve the experience of pharmacists at work.


“We all understand that while we have many shared objectives, such as ensuring safe and healthy workplaces and professional fulfilment for pharmacists, we may not always agree on every issue. However, having an honest and constructive working relationship between employer and employee representatives means that we can navigate all circumstances, and by ensuring the voice of pharmacists is properly heard, that can only improve matters.”


“The first pay negotiations under the new agreement will begin later this year in time for the 2022 pay review.”


Mr. Dowd concluded:


“Before reaching the agreement with PDA Union we asked our pharmacists what they wanted and there was clear support for us to work with the PDA in this way. We can reassure our pharmacists that we have listened to their views and we will continue to do so both directly and through this new relationship with the PDA Union.”



PDA Union challenges pay freeze offered to Boots pharmacists


The annual pay negotiations between Boots and the Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) have been referred to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in the hope they can help the employer and employee representatives reach an agreement after Boots pharmacists were offered a pay freeze this year.


On 10th September, the PDA wrote to members who work at Boots to provide an update on the ongoing pay discussions, following the company announced that a companywide pay freeze was to be implemented with no increases made in November. The announcement reflected that negotiations were underway with the PDA Union for pharmacists covered by the PDA Union Boots recognition agreement.


As a result, further meetings have taken place with Boots with the most recent being on 24th September. Although some progress has been made to the original pay claim, details of which can be found here, it has not been possible to reach an agreement so far because of disagreements over the pay element of the claim.


Following the company’s statement and confirmation that it was, in fact, the intention to offer a 0% increase to pharmacists, the PDA Union negotiating team tabled a counter-offer designed to reflect the company’s position that it could not agree to a pay increase against the background of redundancies and uncertain economic data.


This counter-offer was for a one-off £1000 lump sum payable on 1st November to reflect the commitment and professionalism shown by members during the COVID-19 crisis and an agreement to suspend the pay discussions until January 2021 with a view to reaching an agreement for a pay increase from April 2021, in effect limiting the pay freeze to 6 months rather than 12.


In a joint statement by Boots and the PDA, Anne Higgins, Director of Stores Pharmacy, Boots UK and Paul Moloney, National Officer, PDA Union commented:


“Representatives from Boots and the PDA Union have been meeting regularly since July to hold constructive talks regarding the pay claim submitted by the PDA Union along with requests for changes to other terms and conditions of employment. The latest of these meetings was on 24th September 2020.


“Both parties acknowledge the challenge of concluding negotiations in the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic and current economic conditions, while also recognising the hard work and commitment of pharmacists during what has been an unusual and difficult time for colleagues.


“Both parties recognise that good progress has been made on some of the key issues included in the claim and the discussions have also taken into account the company’s recent statements about zero pay increases for other groups of colleagues. However, so far, it has not been possible to reach an overall agreement due to differences regarding the pay claim itself.


“The recognition agreement signed by Boots and the PDA union last year sets the framework for these discussions. Under that agreement, if differences between the company and the union remain, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), an independent public body, can be invited to assist in helping both sides to find ways of reaching an agreement.
At the conclusion of the September meeting, although both parties remain hopeful that there remains the potential to reach common ground on a number of issues, the next step in the process will be to engage ACAS for their assistance.


“It is expected this part of the process will take a few weeks but a further joint statement will be issued at the conclusion of the discussions with ACAS to update you.”


*ACAS is an independent public body that receives funding from the government. They provide free and impartial advice to employers, employees and their representatives on employment rights, best practice and policies and resolving workplace conflict.



Date for pre-registration exam urgently needed


The Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) has commented on the on-going delayed pre-registration examination situation. They have said that a date for the registration assessment is urgently needed.


The comments come shortly after a recent update issued by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).


The PDA commented that since the GPhC made their decision to cancel the pre-reg assessment exams due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, and subsequently created provisional registration, they have listened very carefully to the issues and concerns raised by their members, represented these concerns to the regulator and contributed positively to GPhC policies on provisional registration.


They have said that it is ‘very disappointing’ that the regulator has taken this long to progress their plans and even this announcement still fails to give full clarity on timing. This leaves prov-regs still unable to request the specific study leave they need in order to make final preparations, adding more stress on new entrants to the profession as well as causing further headaches for their employers.


Since March, the PDA has called for full details of the assessment to be communicated as early possible. Additionally, they have supported our members from the 2020 pre-reg year and resitters with telephone calls and regular online meetings, they have developed their Charter for Provisional Registration.


Although this decision demonstrates that the regulator has heard and responded to these concerns, the PDA has said that an exact date is still urgently needed so that individuals can prepare detailed study plans; just as previous cohorts have done in normal circumstances.


The PDA commented:


“We also recognise that these unprecedented circumstances have led to extreme uncertainty and anxiety for many as pharmacy approaches a comprehensive flu vaccination campaign and a likely second wave of COVID-19. The PDA has called for the regulator to consider a more appropriate assessment for those who are provisionally registered, whilst recognising that calculations are a vital element to the assessment process and for protecting patient safety.


“Many provisionally registered pharmacists will have been working for many months, contributing to frontline patient care during a pandemic as pre-regs and prov-regs, by the time the assessment takes place.


One PDA Prov Reg member said:


“It is bizarre to think that by the time we come to sit the exam we will have been working as Responsible Pharmacists for almost 6 months, and if our employer does not give us adequate time off for study we may fail the exam and lose a job which we will have demonstrated we are competent in doing.”


A pre-reg member who is planning to resit the exam said:


“We are heading into unknown territory with the first ever online exam for pre-reg pharmacists. We hope that the GPhC will ensure that a fit for purpose no detriment policy is in place for those who have caring responsibilities, disabilities and those who require adjustments. We hope their policy will also take into account a further opportunity to sit the exam for those who are on their final attempt and may be impacted by the stress of a change to an unknown online process.”


Another prov-reg member said:


“It is a disappointment that the GPhC couldn’t find a different assessment and examination process for those of us who are working provisionally this year. However, we are pleased to have some clarity on the timeline and hope that employers will now be supportive and allow prov-regs study time and time off for revision once the date of the exam is announced.”




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PDA appoint new head of education


The Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) has announced the appointment of Kate Kensington as their new Head of Education. Kate will lead the PDA’s strategy on professional development for members and the education programmes for student, pre-reg and newly qualified members.


In addition, Kate will further develop the training and support for PDA Reps and the active committee members, helping them to build union strength and capacity.


With 16 years of experience in trade unions and a lifelong commitment to the development of people through access to the education and training they need, Kate is ready to support and empower members to take control of their professional development and to have access to the skills and knowledge they need to get involved in their union and to shape the pharmacy sector.


Kate was previously Head of Professional Development for two education trade unions, ATL (now part of the National Education Union) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT). Kate has also worked as Head of Operations at a commercial training provider and as a freelance consultant working on a range of projects in the charity sector. As Head of Professional Development Kate was responsible for developing and leading the professional development strategy across the UK. Kate led the education team and managed the union’s national portfolio of professional development and reps training. This meant ensuring that members had access to a high quality, relevant and diverse programme.


Kate Kensington said:


“I am excited to be joining the PDA at a time when Pharmacist Initial Education and Training (IET) is changing and to be able to lead and develop our support for members in the early stages of their career with our programmes for pre-reg and prov-reg members, launched on our new PDA Education Hub earlier the month.


“Moving forward I want to ensure that we listen to the needs of all our members, advocate for them and support them throughout their careers. It is critical that the professional development we provide not only helps our members to develop as pharmacists, it also supports them to be involved with their PDA and empowers them as leaders.”


PDA Director, Paul Day said:


“We welcome Kate to the PDA team. Members know that the PDA has a well-earned reputation for defending the interests of pharmacists if they find themselves in difficulty. However, those who know us also appreciate that most of our work is about supporting pharmacists’ careers by campaigning for improvements that impact their work and helping them become better health practitioners.


“We have provided training and development to thousands of members as they have entered the profession, and through PDA Education we will broaden our learning and training opportunities for members.”


Kate will work within the PDA’s Organising and Engagement Department reporting to Collette Bradford who said:


“I am delighted to welcome Kate to the PDA Organising & Engagement team as our Head of Education. Kate and I have worked together previously linking learning and organising strategy to empower and engage union members, grow membership and build union capacity.”


“The PDA investment in our organising and engagement agenda continues, and we are growing in membership numbers, influence and strength. I am excited to see our education offer, as part of our organising and engagement strategy, develop for our members and reps along with future activities being planned for our committees and network members too.”



PDA ‘seriously’ concerned with apparent failure of employers


The Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) has formally written to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) with their concerns about the failure of community pharmacy employers to report any instances of likely exposure to the coronavirus in the workplace.


The PDA has said that they are seriously concerned that there appears to be a ‘failure’ of Community Pharmacy employers to appropriately report instances of exposure to COVID in the workplace.


The PDA have previously highlighted these issues.



The PDA have said that in the absence of any change of approach by community pharmacy employers and with no indication of any action being taken by the regulator the PDA has now formally raised their concerns.


Commenting within the letter PDA Director Paul Day said:


“As with health professionals in other sectors, throughout the lockdown period Community Pharmacists, and their teams will have been following social distancing and government guidelines outside of work to minimise the risk of catching coronavirus and avoiding contact with others. Most interactions with people from outside their household will, therefore, have been while they were at work, spending time with colleagues and patients in what are often cramped pharmacy workspaces. Community pharmacy is a high contact environment, and this is not just our description as the largest community pharmacy employer recently announced that it was joining a pilot to evaluate the effectiveness of testing for people without symptoms of COVID-19 who work in “high-contact” jobs.


“Confidence in community pharmacy employers properly discharging their duties regarding the health and safety of patients and employees is fundamental. The responsibility lies clearly with employers and the absence of any notifications whatsoever for work acquired COVID infections in the community sector must cast significant doubt on compliance with these strict obligations.


“All five principles set out in the “Standards for Registered Pharmacies” identify safeguarding “the health, safety and wellbeing of patients and the public” as the objective; employers and the regulator have no hesitation in holding individuals to account for any failure to comply with legal and professional obligations. It is therefore incumbent on the GPhC to investigate further the unexplained and complete absence of work acquired COVID infection reporting by community pharmacy employers.”


“We would be grateful if you would confirm what action, if any, the GPhC will take with regard to this situation and I look forward to hearing from you. We have copied this letter to the CEOs of the main community pharmacy employer representative bodies.”


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